• There's plenty of room to be creative with ingredients you use in a meat marinade. (Smith Street Books)Source: Smith Street Books
Try something out of the ordinary next time you're preparing dinner.
Caterina Hrysomallis

20 May 2021 - 11:57 AM  UPDATED 21 May 2021 - 2:32 PM

--- Stream the coffee episode of The Cook Up with Adam Liaw free on SBS On Demand or catch the series weeknights on SBS Food at 7.00pm and 10.00pm. ---


There's a non-negotiable formula to any great meat marinade — acid, fat and seasoning. But outside of that, there's plenty of room to be creative with what ingredients you use. We explore five ingredients you may not have considered but are well worth trying the next time you marinate meat.

Kiwi fruit

Using kiwi fruit in a marinade makes meat "very soft and sweet" according to Sun Im, owner of Melbourne CBD Korean restaurant Oriental Spoon Story 2. Kiwi contains the enzyme actinidin, which works well at breaking down protein and tenderising meat. 

Korean cooking often uses kiwi fruit to marinate meat.

Kiwi is a much-loved marinade in Korean cuisine. The chefs at Oriental Spoon marinate several of their beef dishes — including bulgogi and galbi — in a combination of blended kiwi, soy sauce, onion, garlic, sesame oil and sugar. They marinate beef in this kiwi mixture for 14 hours, but Im says you "cannot taste the kiwi flavour at all" after cooking.


To really up the umami on meat marinades, consider adding some ground coffee. Australian restaurant critic Anthony Huckstep uses a coffee rub for a leg of lamb during his appearance on SBS Food's The Cook Up with Adam Liaw. 

Coffee and cumin lamb leg

Coffee isn’t just about your morning caffeine hit. It’s an ingredient, albeit a bitter one, just like any other and works incredibly well as a rub for slow-cooked meats.

Huckstep says, "You've got to think about coffee as an ingredient and not something that you drink.

"It's bitter, it's going to add depth, it's going to add nuttiness."

Huckstep combines coffee with cumin, clove, ginger and cinnamon to create a dry crust for a leg of lamb that's cooked to fall off the bone.

Maple syrup

Maple syrup, chicken and waffles are a culinary trilogy, so why wouldn't maple syrup work in a chicken marinade? 

A common contender when it comes to marinating meat in the United States (but not as much in Australia), maple is a diverse ingredient that can be paired with a range of ingredients to form a legendary marinade. 

Pair maple syrup with spices and acidic flavours to make your marinade sing.

Combine maple syrup and chilli flakes for a well-balanced chicken marinade, or with red wine vinegar, garlic and Worcestershire sauce for a steak marinade. Think of it like honey.


If you have some leftover cola from a function, put it to good use by marinating your pork with it. Cola's high sugar and acid levels keep pork juicy while giving it a subtle sweetness.

Cola can be particularly useful mixed with some ketchup and brown sugar for a glaze for oven-roasted pork chops. Or if you're willing to invest a little more time, place some pork shoulder, cola, onion and garlic powder into a slow cooker for some pulled pork.

Claypot cola chicken

In the countryside in Cambodia this is actually a really fantastic premium dish that a local might cook for their friends and family. It's a rustic chicken recipe but made using cola (which is quite expensive for a local person to buy). Chef Luke Nguyen recommends cooking this in a traditional clay pot if you can get your hands on one.


Gin brings a complex earthiness to meat marination, thanks to the juniper integral to its flavour profile. Plus, gin is extremely versatile, meaning it will complement a range of meats.

Some chefs recommend cooking the gin down slightly before using it in a marinade.

Gin-cured ocean trout with bush tomato emulsion and pickled cucumbers

The discovery of the beautiful and unique West Winds gin from Margaret River is perfect for this dish. Gin is the big craze right now and the creaminess of the salmon will compliment this perfectly. Peter Kuruvita's Coastal Kitchen

Because of its high alcohol content, gin has the potential to start cooking the surface of meat, which may prevent other flavours of a gin marinade from being absorbed. 

Mix gin with some lemon or lime juice and honey for a chicken marinade, or some orange juice and soy for lamb or beef.

The changing tide of Australia's scallop fishing industry
Delicious, local and sustainable: A new breed of scallop fishermen want you to rethink this beloved shellfish.
Dear tofu, you deserve to be a doughnut
Adam Liaw's tofu doughnuts are so easy and delicious that you'll never make doughnuts any other way. #bigcall
Meet sfouf, the tahini-lined Lebanese teacake
This cake is basically begging to be over-cooked to guarantee crispy tahini-laden edges.
Lemon chicken

A Chinese takeaway classic, Adam Liaw shares his version of lemon chicken, which includes a rice wine and ginger sauce and does away with the gluey marinade associated with the dish.

Embrace the buttery brilliance of shortbread in all these worldy versions
Shortbread is easy to make and so rewardingly buttery and melt-in-the-mouth.
How dinner at home shaped the success of the Salloum sisters' Almond Bar
From peeling garlic on the floor to owning an award-winning Syrian restaurant — this is the journey of the Syrian-Australian Salloum sisters.